Melbourne United wrestle-mania before Illawarra Hawks showdown

Fire up: Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman. Picture: AAP Image/ Hamish Blair
Fire up: Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman. Picture: AAP Image/ Hamish Blair

Melbourne United coach Dean Vickerman knew his team had reached a plateau of sorts following their thrashing at the hands of Perth Wildcats last game.

So faced with the FIBA international break and two weeks until their next game, Vickerman decided to put his players into uncomfortable situations.

He wanted them to show some fight, deal with physicality and handle adversity so he sent the team to do a boxing session and an MMA wrestling session.

The MMA session was on Monday with the team going through about 75 minutes of relentless drills, which saw them constantly competing against teammates.

With Melbourne United not taking the court again until they host Illawarra Hawks at Hisense Arena on Monday night, it's not yet clear if the plan worked – but it certainty gave the team a shake up.

"It was pretty full on. It was MMA kind of wrestling so it was a lot of holds and trying to get out of holds," Vickerman said.

"There was nowhere to hide and if you are laying on the ground and someone has got you down you have to stay there for as long as you have got to stay there until you are out of it.

"There was a fight element, you can't quit and need to make third and fourth efforts and the boys handled it well."

There was some significant injury risks in turning his squad over to an experienced wrestling coach mid-season but Vickerman knew the team needed a serious jolt following the 91-59 loss to the Wildcats in Melbourne.

"In some ways it was like we needed a fight in practice or something to assess where this group is character-wise and we got that in this different form," Vickerman said.

"It just felt like in the whole preseason up to now that whenever we did something well there was a little bit of a let off.

"There is physical toughness and a mental toughness that is needed, you can't be satisfied.

"I don't know if this group believed their own hype or different things.

"As a coaching staff and leaders we have to lift the level of training, we have to continue to make it a little uncomfortable."

Australian Boomers guard Chris Goulding was expected to rejoin the team on Tuesday night for a team dinner and training on Thursday while New Zealand development forward Tohi Smith-Milner was also expected to return to the squad later this week.

If Melbourne United fans are concerned one of their stars might leave the NBL and chase an MMA championship belt, Vickerman thinks it's unlikely.

"Tai Wesley combined strength with agility so all-round he was probably on top of our list but Pete Hooley surprised me a bit with the amount of fight he put up against some of the bigger guys," Vickerman said.

"I don't think any of them want to be a wrestler, it was one of the hardest things some of those guys have done."

Nick Kay. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Nick Kay. Picture: Sylvia Liber